Socialist Worker

Don't miss this night of dissent

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 1769

MARK THOMAS, the comedian and activist who was so successful with his Channel 4 programmes, is on a tour which will take his establishment-poking talent to nearly 50 towns and cities across Britain. Go for a defiant, intensely moving, incredibly powerful and hugely funny evening.

It is based on the story of the Ilisu dam. This is a project in south east Turkey which involves seven multinationals (such as British giant Balfour Beatty) and eight governments.

It will mean displacing 25,000 Kurds and severe ecological damage. But, while explaining the case, Mark Thomas looks at other issues like the effects of Iraqi sanctions ('The toll of 20 World Trade Centres every year') and the record of Israeli leader Sharon ('He says he won't sit down with terrorists- they must spend a lot of time with Israeli cabinet ministers on their feet'). He also talks about the threat of war in Afghanistan ('Gloucester hid Fred West, but nobody suggested carpet-bombing Gloucester').

The biggest cheer of the night is when Mark Thomas says, 'If you want to stop terrorism, stop kissing George Bush's arse.' But the show is never remotely like a lecture. It's a fast trip which batters as many establishment figures as possible.

Even if you have heard it before, the story of how activists disrupted the shareholders' meeting of Balfour Beatty and almost caused its chairman, Lord Weir ('a ball of gout with a mouth'), a heart attack is magnificent. And when Mark Thomas talks about the courage and commitment of the Kurdish people he has met, and their refusal to give in to Turkish state brutality, it is both chilling and inspiring.

Mark Thomas's great ability is to shift you from laughter at the stupidities of government and the rich to tears at the horrors ordinary people have faced-and to do it all without you feeling manoeuvred.

Mark Thomas's show sounds different to normal theatre and the atmosphere is different too. How many other shows have stalls for War on Want and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade in the foyer?

He attracts an audience who normally do not go to theatres-they're younger and much more working class. In the row alongside me in Edmonton, north London, last week were two health workers, a bus driver, three council workers, four students and a retired flower arranger.

They were all incredibly enthusiastic about what Mark Thomas does. They explained it's 'because he upsets people at the top', 'because he's sincere and does things, not just talk about them', and 'because he's political without being a politician'.

Something like 15,000 people will see this show over the next two months, an indication of the mood in Britain today. You would do yourself a big favour to get a ticket.

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Mon 1 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1769
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